Indiana Pacers v New York Knicks - Game Two

Pacers collapse in fourth quarter, Knicks win in rout to even series


It all started with 3:05 left in the third quarter. The Pacers had been on a 10-4 run and had taken a two-point lead — Indiana had the momentum. Game 2 of this second round series was starting to look a lot like Game 1, when the Pacers beat the Knicks in Madison Square Garden.

Then with 3:05 left Pacers coach Frank Vogel called timeout. You don’t often see the team on the run call the timeout. Vogel also wanted to get his key big man Roy Hibbert some rest and subbed in Jeff Pendergraph. Soon Carmelo Anthony stole the ball from Paul George, then on the offensive end Anthony isolated on David West and took him to the hole for a lay-up. There was no Hibbert there to slow him.

After a Knicks stop, Carmelo isolated on West again, drove the lane, Pendergraph rotated late and Anthony dunked all over him and got the and-1.

That was the start of a ridiculous 30-2 Knicks run — Indiana didn’t score from the field for more than 12 minutes — that turned a close game into a blowout and a 105-79 Knicks win. Anthony finished with 32 points and 9 rebounds.

This series is now tied 1-1 and headed to Indiana. Eventually. These two teams are off until Saturday night.

From the start of the game the Knicks played with some desperation and with a better plan of attack — more pick-and-roll, they are driving into the paint and looking for kick-outs. Raymond Felton started 4-of-4, the Knicks closed the quarter on 18-9 run and lead 29-20 after 12 minutes.

The Pacers were still getting their looks — they shot 54.5 percent in the first half — but only had 42 points because of 12 turnovers. They finished the game with 21 turnovers, or 23.9 percent of their possessions ended in a turnover for the game. Nearly one in four trips down the court.

Still, after the Knicks missed last six shots, Pacers closed the half on an 8-0 to make it 47-42 Knicks at the break.

Anthony continued his struggles in the first half — he had 10 points but needed 11 shots to get there. Anthony and J.R. Smith combined to shoot 33% in first half, rest of Knicks team knocking down 60.9%.

But the second half — and particularly the fourth quarter — was like a different game.

Anthony shot 9-of-15 in the second half for 22 points. Tyson Chandler shot 3-of-3, as did Pablo Prigioni. Kenyon Martin shot 2-of-2, Iman Shumpert was 2-of-3. Everything worked for the Knicks (except J.R. Smith, who was 0-5).

It was more than the offense, the Knicks upped their defensive pressure and played like the desperate team after Vogel’s timeout. The Pacers went 12 minutes without a bucket from the field, they shot just 4-of-16 in the fourth, and their offense completely broke down. Earlier in the game they were getting their looks working inside out, but as they fell behind the Pacers just started to jack up threes.

I expect the Pacers, back at home and feeling comfortable Saturday, will return more to their form.

The question is which Knicks team shows up, the one from the first half or the one from the fourth quarter. If it’s the latter, it will not matter where the game is played.

51Q: Does Ty Lawson vault the Rockets into the top tier of championship contenders?

DENVER, CO - MARCH 07:  James Harden #13 of the Houston Rockets controls the ball against Ty Lawson #3 of the Denver Nuggets at Pepsi Center on March 7, 2015 in Denver, Colorado. The Rockets defeated the Nuggets 114-100. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement.  (Photo by Doug Pensinger/Getty Images)
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I see five clear upper-echelon championship contenders –  Warriors, Spurs, Clippers, Thunder and Cavaliers.

Do the Rockets belong in that group, or do they fill the next tier by themselves?

Ty Lawson – acquired for pennies on the dollar – could put Houston over the top.

But, really, this premise might not be fair to the Rockets. They earned the No. 2 seed in the Western Conference last season and reached the conference finals last season. James Harden finished second in MVP voting. Dwight Howard looked like a star during the playoffs. The supporting cast – Trevor Ariza, Terrence Jones, Donatas Motiejunas, Patrick Beverley, Corey Brewer and even Jason Terry – played better than anyone expected. Young players like Clint Capela, K.J. McDaniels, Sam Dekker and Montrezl Harrell could make a leap at any moment.

There’s a case to be made we should have taken Houston more seriously even before trading for Lawson.

I didn’t, though, and I don’t think many others did either.

I suspect one of the biggest reasons is the Rockets’ balance. Houston – 12th in points scored per possession, sixth in points allowed per possession – was one of only two teams to win more than 51 games last season without ranking top five in either category. Of the seven teams with so many victories, the Hawks – sixth, seventh – were the only other. Atlanta was a darling team, winning 60 games after going 38-44 the season prior. The Rockets’ modest win increase, from 54 to 56, drew less attention.

But balance shouldn’t be punished. Houston’s surprisingly strong defense should be celebrated. Lawson might push its middling offense over the top.

There are reasons to question that, though.

The biggest is Lawson’s sobriety. If he’s not focused and engaged, this all goes out the window. His comments about going to rehab only because it was court-ordered raise doubts, though they hardly foretell anything.

Let’s say Lawson’s off-court problems are behind him. How big of an upgrade is he? The Rockets already had a pretty good point guard who fit well with Harden in Beverley. Lawson is a clear offensive upgrade, but in the biggest moments, the ball will still run through Harden. At that point, would you rather have Beverley or Lawson on the floor? Beverley is a far superior defender, and his off-ball offensive game isn’t far from Lawson’s. Beverley is is a fine spot-up shooter, and Lawson’s strengths involve having the ball and creating. Lawson’s biggest boost could come when Harden sits, but that was fewer than 12 minutes per game last season.

Sure, a secondary ball-handler could ease pressure on Harden throughout a long regular season. Lawson and Harden can take turns running the attack.

But we’re talking about title contention, and in those high-leverage situations, it’s Harden’s show. How much does Lawson matter then?

The Rockets have a chance to win a championship. As good a chance as the NBA’s five best teams? I’m not so sure.

UNLV following Kentucky’s lead with combine for NBA scouts

Goodluck Okonoboh, Patrick McCaw
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Kentucky held a two-day combine last season for NBA scouts.

Now, LSU and UNLV are following suit.

Rob Dauster of NBC Sports:

The Runnin’ Rebels will hold their event on October 23rd and 24th at the Mendenhall Center, UNLV’s practice facility, sources told The expectation is that all 30 NBA teams will be in attendance.

LSU has potential No. 1 pick Ben Simmons and another first-round prospect in Tim Quarterman.

UNLV features lottery prospect Stephen Zimmerman.

This won’t replace scouts attending games and watching practices, but the fact that all 30 teams plan to attend shows how seriously the pro league takes these. No college team wanted John Calipari to have that competitive advantage in recruiting, so the smart ones are leveling the field with their own combines. Soon, more college teams will follow.

As the calendar gets packed, NBA teams might have to pick and choose which they attend. At that point, we might get little clues about which prospects they’re scouting hardest.